Gains and casualties in the no-kill revolution

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, July/August 2001:
HARTFORD, Connecticut–The no-kill movement has catch-and-kill on the run, but what happens next? Winning public favor means the 600-plus no-kill advocates expected at the 2001 No Kill Conference in Hartford in mid-August are inheriting the three perennial animal care-and-control problems–and now must provide solutions.

Problem #1 is dog and cat overpopulation. Problem #2 is reforming animal care-and-control institutions that do not want to change. Problem #3 is extending services to regions and neighborhoods where despite the progress made in more affluent places, humane services are still just a rumor.

Three years after Richard Avanzino electrified the 1998 No Kill Conference by announcing the creation of the $220 million Maddie’s Fund, to “roll, roll, roll” no-kill animal control across America, the animal care-and-control community is mostly still in future shock–under more intense and sustained scrutiny than ever before.

At least 115 U.S. animal shelters were embroiled in controversy during the first half of 2001, according to the ANIMAL PEOPLE case files. Among them were 65 conventional humane society or animal control shelters: roughly one in 50. Fifty or more no-kill shelters were also caught up in controversy: about one in 15. The trouble at conventional shelters typically involved problems festering since well before 1998, exposed by increased public attention. The trouble at no-kills typically involved people trying to do too much with too little infrastructure, funding, and–especially–managerial experience.

Insufficient funding was directly involved in 17% of the uproars at conventional shelters and 16% of the no-kills.Overcrowding, often resulting from short funding which prevents getting more space, was an issue at 17% of the conventional shelters and 50% of the no-kills.

Of the troubled conventional organizations, 8% lost their shelters through fire, flood, or condemnation as a health hazard. Thirty-six percent of the troubled no-kills lost their shelters, mostly for zoning violations and/or loss of a lease. Of the conventional shelters, 57% had serious personnel problems, compared to only 34% of the no-kills, which relied more on highly motivated volunteers.

About a third of the personnel issues at either type of shelter brought changes of leadership. No-kill shelters typically dealt with infighting among volunteers. Personnel disputes at conventional shelters typically involved new leaders struggling to retrain and reinvigorate inherited personnel whose jobs are often protected by union contracts or civil
service seniority.

An example including elements of almost all the common problems was the ongoing three-way dispute at Albuquerque Animal Services among entrenched staff, Animal Services manager Bob Hillman, and activist Marcy Britton, detailed in the July/August 2000 edition of ANIMAL PEOPLE. Hillman has for nearly five years worked to professionalize a department which historically was staffed mainly by low-level city employees who transferred in, when they accumulated sufficient seniority, to claim increased pay and benefits. Britton and others have accused Hillman, however, of protecting abusive personnel who should have been fired.

Albuquerque on May 4, 2001 agreed to pay Britton $80,000 of her estimated $90,000 in legal fees for a 1998 lawsuit alleging misconduct at Animal Services. Britton in turn withdrew a subsequent federal lawsuit which alleged that while fighting the first lawsuit,
Hillman and assistant city attorney Greg Wheeler improperly investigated and disclosed aspects of her financial affairs, medical history, sexual history, and family relations. Hillman’s boss, Sarah Kotchian, Albuquerque director of environmental health since 1997, resigned 19 days later “to spend time with her family and pursue other interests,” according to an official statement.

Turning her attention to the counties just south of Albuquerque, Britton petitioned for a grand jury probe of the Valencia County animal control center, which killed 96.9 animals per
1,000 residents of the service area in 2000–more than any other shelter whose data is known to ANIMAL PEOPLE.

Resembling the Albuquerque example is a year-long fracas over the administration of the Sacramento city shelter, managed until a successor is hired by Dennis Kubo, who has reportedly not kept promises to vaccinate all incoming animals and develop new adoption
and humane education programs. Kubo is to transfer to the Sacramento on-street parking department when a replacement arrives. An inspection by the Humane Society of the U.S. produced a list of 359 items at the shelter to be corrected. A blue-ribbon panel distilled
the list down to 83 items. But the staff, with just 11 filled positions of 22 positions existing on paper, has apparently done little of the listed work.

“Nothing,” Sacramento Area Animal Coalition president Jennifer Fearing told Sacramento Bee staff writer Blair Anthony Robertson, “seems to rise to the level of ‘This needs to be done right now.'”

Crime stories
Except for cases of alleged animal hoarding, involving very small no-kill organizations, run by just one or two people, instances of alleged abuse and neglect at shelters during the past
year have involved animal control providers.

* In West New York, New Jersey, for example, Hudson County SPCA board members Ed Pulver and Jack Shaw were fined $500 each on May 3 for failing to meet veterinary care and quarantine requirements at the Jersey City Animal Shelter. The charges developed out of an allegation that former shelter staffer Carlos Tan beat a dog to death with a shovel in June 2000. Charged with cruelty, Tan has not been apprehended.

* In Amador County, California, animal control officer Tony Tozi Jr. and animal control director Clark “Bo” Evans were put on administrative leave in May while the sheriff’s department investigated an allegation by a former shelter employee that Tozi took cats from the shelter to use as live bait for training his hunting dogs. Affidavits claimed that Tozi kept photographs of his dogs chasing cats and carrying dead cats in their mouths.

* Nye County, Nevada, hired exotic animal trainer Karl Mitchell, 48, as animal control director last year despite his 1985 plea bargain to lesser charges after allegedly ramming a vehicle driven by California Fish and Game officers who were trying to arrest him for alleged poaching.

In April 2001 the USDA fined Mitchell $27,500–the maximum–for repeated violations of animal care standards, and took away his permits to exhibit exotic cats. At about the same time, Pahrump resident Kathy Diaz charged Mitchell with theft for allegedly taking her two silky terriers from her porch. Mitchell told Nye County sheriff’s deputies that they died. Skeptical, the deputies and two other county employees excavated a landfill and inspected 40 to 50 dog carcasses before determining that the silky terriers were not among them. Returning to Mitchell’s house, they found both silky terriers.

Mitchell was additionally charged in May with allegedly stealing a cockatoo and three pit bull terriers. Eventually he was charged with 14 alleged offenses during his tenure as animal control director, including some involving firearms, use of illegal drugs, and annoying a minor with unwelcome touching, solicitation of prostitution, and open and gross lewdness. Yet Mitchell kept his job until June, when the Nevada SPCA evacuated many of the estimated 200 dogs he was said to have held in a kennel built for 50.

* In Bradenton, Florida, former Manatee County animal services officer Leo Blackman, 25, on July 9 drew a year on probation, 150 hours of community service, and a fine of $500 for allegedly beating a raccoon to death at the pound, in front of co-workers.

* In Shelby County, Tennessee, nine-year-old Jacqueline Silsbe on July 6 lost Darby, her five-year-old Labrador, when a neighbor had the Shelby County Animal Control Division take him as a stray. Her father Danny Silsbe found out about it within 15 minutes and called the shelter, frantic with worry that Darby would bake in the hot van, but animal control officials would not release the dog until the truck reached the shelter four hours later. By then Darby was dead. The county policy was amended to prohibit keeping a dog in a van longer than two hours.

* In Rogers, Arkansas, city code enforcement officer Terry Thurman quit in August 2000 after mayor Steve Womack ordered him and staff to stop drowning cats to save about $1.00 per shot of sodium pentabarbital. Womack also ordered an end to hosing down cages with animals inside. Thurman’s successor, Jeff David, recommended on July 10 that shelter manager Angela Hopping and assistant manager Melissa Lee should be fired for allowing a four-month-old German shepherd to die of heat stress in an unshaded outdoor run while
cleaning cages. Hopping and Lee quit instead.

Gashouse Gang
Intertwined with the personnel problems were at least 20 disputes over killing methods and protocol. Most prominently, the Animal Humane Society of Hennepin County, Minnesota, serving the Minneapolis area, is under intensifying pressure from activisits and news media to stop gassing animals and instead use sodium pentobarbitol–a change already mandated by law in six states.

The introduction of a gas chamber for staff convenience is also a hot topic involving Metro Animal Control in Casper, Wyoming. Thirteen Wyoming shelters already had gas chambers. Other shelters, especially in rural areas, are even farther behind the times. In Herrin, Illinois, for instance, Mayor Vic Ritten just this past June finally ended the practice of shotgunning stray dogs. Many other rural communities still do it.

And just the introduction of killing with sodium pentabarbitol does not necessarily reduce animal suffering. Inept administration of pentabarbitol appears to be the single most common complaint about the management of conventional shelters.

But the Animal Humane Society is reputedly the wealthiest shelter in the upper midwest, handling the highest volume of animals of any shelter north of Chicago and between the coasts. It can afford change, and what it does will have a ripple effect on the sheltering community. It is therefore a priority target for a coalition of activists whose longterm goal includes urging Minneapolis toward pursuing no-kill.

An ad hoc committee called Citizens for Humane Euthanasia in early July published newspaper ads naming and giving contact information for the Animal Humane Society board of directors, and at least twice in recent months brought Chicago-area activist Steve Hindi to Minneapolis, where he grew up, to provide an audiovisual dimension to protests with the SHARK “Tiger” TV van.

Longtime Animal Humane society director Alan Stensrud claims gassing is psychologically easier on his staff, helping them avoid burnout–which critics argue is just the point: killing animals should not be easy.

The Adoption Pact

No healthy or recoverable non-vicious dog or cat has been killed by either the San Francisco SPCA or the San Francisco Department of Animal Care and Control since April 1994. Under the Adoption Pact, the agreement that made San Francisco the first U.S. no-kill city, the Department of Animal Care & Control sends any healthy or recoverable animal that it cannot rehome across the street to the SF/SPCA for special care until the animal can be placed.

As the SF/SPCA year by year receives fewer healthy animals from the city, because the vigorous SF/SPCA neutering program has all but eliminated unwanted litters of puppies and kittens, it concentrates more money and staff time on saving sick or injured but recoverable animals, so that the number of animals killed per 1,000 residents of San Francisco continues to drop, years after hitting what was believed to be rock bottom.

Impressed by the success of the Adoption Pact, PeopleSoft entrepreneurs Dave and Cheryl Duffield endowed Maddie’s Adoption Center for the San Francisco SPCA, opened in 1997, and then endowed Maddie’s Fund in 1998 to make available to other cities and even whole states the investment capital necessary to follow the San Francisco model.

As executive director the Duffields hired Adoption Pact author Richard Avanzino, who had been president of the SF/SPCA since 1976. Avanzino rightly anticipated that the availability of the money would stimulate public review of animal care-and-control services nationwide, as first phase of a cultural change. Yet there are still no more working models of no-kill animal control in the U.S. than there were in 1998. Boulder, Colorado, went no-kill successfully in 1996, and Bozeman, Montana, attempted the transition in 1996 but has subsequently faltered, partly because of inadequate facilities. Other communities pushing toward no-kill are all still several years away.

Wisconsin Humane Society executive director Victoria Wellens is seven years into what was supposed to be a five-year plan to take Milwaukee to no-kill. But getting started took three years instead of one because the first step was not returning one animal control contract to the city in order to focus on sterilizations and adoptions, as in San Francisco, but rather returning contacts to 19 cities, each of which had to be helped to make new animal control arrangements.

Since that was done, Wisconsin Humane has opened a state-of-the-art adoption center similar to Maddie’s Adoption Center, and has reportedly cut the Milwaukee shelter killing rate by about a third.

The first Maddie’s Fund grant to take a whole community to no-kill was made to Tony LaRussa’s Animal Rescue Foundation on behalf of Contra Costa County, California. But the Animal Rescue Foundation dropped the project and the grant after just one year, and while asking why, ANIMAL PEOPLE became skeptical that ARF–among the fastest-growing organizations in the U.S.–had the focus to lead the effort in the first place.

More recently, the city of Lodi, California, and the entire state of Utah have committed to five-year plans to go no-kill. Early results from both are promising. The Utah plan, headed by the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, would set the most impressive example, as Utah is large, scattered, rural, and conservative–just the opposite of San Francisco, but much like
many other regions where shelter killing rates are high.

The Humane Society of Austin & Travis County, Texas, under executive director Karen Medicus, went no-kill in 1997 and already intended to emulate the San Francisco model when Maddie’s Fund debuted. But Medicus welcomed a Maddie’s Fund grant of $430,000 on June 28 as first installment toward achieving a five-year trajectory to no-kill that could eventually receive up to $3.9 million in funding. In addition to the Humane Society of Austin & Travis County, the Austin plan includes the city-run Town Lake Animal Center and 44 private veterinary hospitals.

Richmond pact

Also committed to going no-kill, whether or not they get help from Maddie’s Fund, are Knoxville, Pittsburgh, San Diego, and now Richmond, Virginia. Two years after Richmond SPCA executive director Robin Starr first proposed an agreement between the Richmond SPCA and the Richmond Animal Shelter modeled after the San Francisco Adoption Pact, the Richmond city council on July 9 approved it, 8-1, with a projected six-year phase-in.

Explained Richmond Times-Disp-atch staff writer Lea Stegn, “The agreement calls for the city-run shelter to take in homeless animals. In turn, the SPCA will take helathy animals from the pound and focus on their adoption. The pound will continue to euthanize animals during the phase-in. By 2008, the Richmond SPCA has pledged to take all of the pound’s healthy animals” after their mandatory holding time, but will no longer take animals directly from the public.

The Richmond SPCA is giving $30,000 to the Richmond Animal Shelter to help start the transition, plus revenue from television ads, and may donate its present shelter to the city when a new Richmond SPCA adoption center opens next year.

Seven small no-kill organizations in the Richmond area vehemently opposed the transition of the Richmond SPCA to no-kill for various stated reasons, all of which appear to distill into fear of competition from a larger and more professional organization.

Pittsburgh

The three major Pittsburgh humane organizations jointly committed to going no-kill on a five-year trajectory in late 2000.  The Pittsburgh Animal Rescue League in January 2001 opened a home-like adoption facility modeled after Maddie’s Adoption Center, but on a smaller scale. The Western Pennsylvania Humane Society raised the first $500,000 it needs to build a whole new shelter.

Nancy Shannon, president of the confusingly named Washington Area Humane Society, also in Pittsburgh, told Deborah Shankovich of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that her organization had only killed “two or three animals per month in the last seven months. Our volunteers are up 20%,” Shannon said. “We are actively seeking more foster homes, we purchased a van to transport animals to shopping malls and other facilities where people might be inclined to purchase a pet, and we are taking over the house next door and turning it
into a cat sanctuary,” she added.

The Knoxville commitment to no-kill came about last year when the city and county balked at paying the full cost of animal impoundment and disposal at the dilapidated Humane Society of the Tennessee Valley shelter–which executive director Vicky Crosetti was unable to raise the cost of replacing, in part because of the unpopularity of her job of killing dogs and cats, even though her record in reducing shelter killing was among the best in the South.

A coalition of local no-kill rescue groups convinced Knoxville officials that a city-and-county-run shelter working cooperatively with them could operate on less money and save more animals. The city-and-county hired Randy Keplinger, head of animal control for Oak Ridge since 1976, to assemble the new Knoxville/Knox County Animal Welfare Center virtually overnight. Some rescue groups that were gung-ho to help have learned the hard way that they cannot save every dog and cat, and one of them, the Animal Foundation of East Tennessee, is reportedly under investigation by the Tennessee Department of Charitable Solicitations, following the June resignation of all staff except director Brenda Berke. Keplinger, however, has held the animal control killing rate to 61%.

Crosetti meanwhile led the Humane Society of the Tennessee Valley into a new focus on high-volume low-cost sterilization and adoption. Sympathetic toward no-kill, she remained skeptical that it was the right way to go–but after six months as a no-kill organization, Crosetti told ANIMAL PEOPLE, she wondered why it took her so long to make the change. Staff morale was way up, she said, absenteeism was down, donations and adoptions were up, and hostility from the public had disappeared. Making Knoxville a no-kill city will probably take at least five more years, Crosetti estimates, but it has begun to look like an attainable goal.

San Diego burns

The San Diego Humane Society and city and county animal control agencies began a joint push toward no-kill in November 1999–but it crashed and burned on June 29 when an alleged arson destroyed about $3 million worth of a new $8.9 million county shelter that was to open on August 3. Nearly half the cost of the complex came from Joan Kroc, widow of McDonald’s restaurant chain founder Ray Kroc, and Helen Copley, owner of the San Diego Union-Tribune. Each donated $2 million.

The fire came six months after a blaze of unknown origin razed the nearby Escondido Humane Society shelter, killing 110 animals and doing $1.1 million in damage. The fire also came only two days before the San Diego Union-Tribune published an expose by David Hasemyer and David Washburn of bitter conflict between Dena Mangiamele, DVM, heading the county animal control department since May 1999, and the 3,000-member Friends of County Animal Shelters volunteer auxiliary, as well as the San Diego County Veterinary Medical Association. That the expose was to appear was well-known within the San Diego animal rescue community.

Mangiamele was accused of allegedly concealed failure to improve the county adoption record significantly in her second year, after adoptions rose by 1,600 in her first year, by transferring 3,023 animals to the Escondido Humane Society, under an arrangement made by her predecessor. The Escondido shelter fire apparently destroyed the records that could have clarified whether the transferred animals were adopted or killed; Escondido had the option of doing either.

County shelter staff were accused of routinely falsifying records to indicate that healthy animals were killed due to illness, failing to vaccinate animals, killing claimed animals, killing at least 23 animals who were later advertised for adoption, and neglecting veterinary care. Mangiamele alienated many rescuers and about two-thirds of the veterinarians who sterilize animals for the county by ending sterilization surgeries at the shelter. Instead, shelter animals were “outsourced” to private veterinary clinics, increasing transportation time and costs. Refusing to accept a July 13 demotion, Magiamele was fired on July 20. She was replaced on an interim basis by registrar of voters Mikel Haas.

Separate pieces of the action

Taking the San Francisco route to no-kill begins with separation of animal control from humane services, to avoid an inherent contradiction of purpose. Animal control, funded by taxpayers, exists to protect people from animals, and is rarely funded beyond what most taxpayers perceive as the necessary minimum. Humane services exist to protect animals from people–and there is no limit on how much money can be raised for that purpose, beyond the persuasive skills of the fundraiser.

But there is scarcely any unanimity as yet in the humane and animal control communities that their services should be separated. Humane societies became involved in animal control in the first place more than 125 years ago to reduce the violence that was involved in drowning or bludgeoning stray dogs. Later, humane societies often took animal control contracts to keep stray dogs and cats from being sold to laboratories. That practice has not quite receded into history, as illustrated in St. Joseph County, Michigan, last November, where a citizens’ committee was unable to persuade the county commissioners to stop selling impounded animals to lab supplier Fred Hodgins.

Seven years to the day after the San Francisco Adoption Pact took effect, the SPCA of Texas on April 1 moved the opposite way by taking over animal control duties for The Colony, a Dallas suburb. The SPCA of Texas already held animal control contracts with Frisco and McKinney, and receives animals for adoption from 31 Dallas-area shelters.

SPCA of Texas executive director Warren Cox shares with Los Angeles County Animal Control director Frank Andrews the most seniority among active animal care-and-control personnel: both began in 1952. Both Cox and Andrews are also longtime enthusiastic supporters of lifesaving innovation. Cox is among the first U.S. humane society chief executives to begin building an adoption campus, a spacious outdoor facility where prospective adoptors can walk, play with, run with, and otherwise get to know animals before making their choice. Introduced in England by the National Canine Defence League, adoption campuses help to increase animal placements–and help even more to keep animals psychologically and physically healthy while they wait.

Cox does not argue that every humane society should do animal control, nor does he argue that animal control should always be done by humane societies. But he believes that humane societies should step in as needed. “If Frank Andrews is the head of animal control, there is no problem. You don’t need a humane society to run it,” Cox told ANIMAL PEOPLE back in April. “If you get some dogcatcher in a pickup truck with a cage on it and a line of stakes in his yard to tie the dogs up with, or have people in authority who think that’s the way it ought to be done to cut costs, you’d better have a humane society. By the way,” he added, “don’t tell Frank I said that. It will go to his head.”

Squeezing

Many municipal officials are still trying to trim budgets by asking private donors to subsidize basic animal care-and-control functions–and not just in small towns. The Indianapolis City Council, for instance, on March 21 refused to fund a $364,000 air conditioning and circulating system for the city pound which was recommended to keep animals and staff
healthier, and make conditions more attractive to prospective adoptors. After private donors put up $119,000, however, the council approved spending the rest. Such responses encourage public officials to squeeze animal care agencies harder.

Contending for more than a decade that it does animal control at a loss, the Washington Humane Society threatened to drop the Washington D.C. contract earlier this year. During a similar impasse in 1995, the D.C. administration briefly turned the city shelter over to an ad hoc coalition, with catastrophic results, but that didn’t prevent another showdown.

As the dispute this year dragged on, Matthew Cella of The Washington Times in mid-March disclosed D.C. Department of Health memos questioning the Washington Humane killing rate of about 72%, normal 10 years ago but now relatively high, and pointing out the longtime close relationship between Washington Humane and PETA, outspokenly opposed to no-kill sheltering.

“Ingrid Newkirk, cofounder of PETA, helped the society obtain the D.C. animal control contract,” wrote Cella. “Newkirk was once manager of the Georgia Avenue shelter, and later worked at the New York Avenue shelter when it was under the Department of Health. She started PETA in 1980 with Alex Pacheco, a volunteer she met at the New York Avenue shelter. Mary Healey, Washington Humane Society director since 1993, previously worked for PETA, as did chief animal control officer Scotlund Haisley and New York Avenue shelter
manager Pam Capman. Personnel from PETA headquarters ride along on animal control missions.”

The Washington Humane Society took another public relations hit on April 17 when it was fined $50 and given a year on probation for handling and often euthanizing injured and ill birds without the proper federal permits, amounting to 881 violations of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act since 1997.

But on June 26, Washington Humane won a raise from circa $650,000/year for providing animal control service to $1.6 million.The same day, the nearby Montgomery County Humane Society, of Maryland, got a raise from the county for doing animal control, from $948,000 to $1.2 million.

In Jacksonville, Florida, the city council in June authorized spending $4.1 million to replace the crumbling old municipal shelter, after approving $1 million worth of repairs to keep the old shelter open while the new shelter is built. But the total estimated cost of the new shelter will be $8 million.The Jacksonville Humane Society has a 10-acre facility of its own, does not want to partner with the city in building the new shelter, and is not willing to do animal control for what the city is willing to pay.

A mayoral task force and animal control director John Merritt have applied leverage by threatening to form a new nonprofit organization to help fund the shelter and do animal control, estimating that it could raise between $2 million and $3 million per year in donations. “The Jacksonville Humane Society is fighting that idea. Another nonprofit could siphon off donations,” reported David DeCamp of the Florida Times-Union.

Down the Florida east coast, the city of Boca Raton tried to escape the $513,200 cost of running the 29-year-old Boca Raton Animal Shelter by offering to give the building outright to a nonprofit humane society while retaining ownership of the land, and requiring the recipient to perform all animal control services currently done by the city. There were no immediate takers. The attempted giveaway came four months after the city fired shelter director Kris Everett and tried unsuccessfully to sell the shelter to the highest bidder.

Everett had barely arrived last September when a volunteer tried to walk a pit bull terrier past a six-year-old boy who was holding a kitten. The boy was mauled. Everett restricted volunteer hours thereafter, and reportedly told shelter staff to get rid of Tu-Tu, their mascot cat. Everett also escalated the pace of shelter killing, ostensibly to reduce overcrowding and disease, and banned three volunteers who objected.

Realizing that their expanding populations have outpaced the capabilities of small nonprofit rescue groups, the executives of Columbia, Lincoln, and McDuffie counties in Georgia met in late June to discuss enlarging the Columbia shelter, already undergoing $77,000 worth of improvements, to provide animal control service to all three counties. Easing the burden on the small nonprofits would help them to promote adoptions and neutering. However, the amount of territory a single shelter would have to cover could require the use of transfer stations for abandoned animals–like the notorious “dump bins” formerly used in Rutherford
County, Tennessee, which became a global cause celebre due to European tabloid TV exposure in 1998-1999. The “dump bins” were eventually demolished, but Rutherford County still has the second highest rate of animal control killing per 1,000 residents of any
jurisdiction in the U.S. whose data is known to ANIMAL PEOPLE, and a community meeting in May shouted down a two-year-old proposal to build a new shelter on county land in Murfreesboro.

Hold-out in Phoenix

Maddie’s Fund applicants must disclose more information about their operations and their communities than many animal care-and-control organizations have ever before disclosed–and every major organization within each applying jurisdiction must endorse the application. If multi-million-dollar grants and the public acclaim that comes with trying to go no-kill are the carrots for potential applicants, the requirements of disclosure and unanimity are proving to be two big sticks.

Holding out against proposed applications to Maddie’s Fund favored by all other local animal care agencies of noteworthy size are Arizona Humane Society executive director Ken White and Humane Society of Missouri executive director Kathryn Warnick. Both are under growing pressure to either get with the program or step aside. In Phoenix, Maricopa County Animal Care & Control director Ed Boks assembled an 18-organization coalition to apply for $10 million in Maddie’s funding–but without Arizona Humane, the application could not be filed.

Competition between the Arizona Humane Society and Maricopa County Animal Care & Control has actually helped both organizations in recent years. Maricopa County adopted out 19,185 animals in 2000, second only to the 23,704 placed by the North Shore Animal
League–and the Arizona Humane Society is third, adopting out more than 18,000. Earlier in 2001, White announced that Arizona Humane has begun work on a $12 million 20-acre “adoption campus,” which he said could increase adoptions by another 10,000 per year.

“Whatever excuses Ken White gives for not signing on in support of the Maddie’s Fund application are meant to cover up the real reason,” said Phoenix resident Patty Finch, a former Arizona Humane Society employee and former director of the National Association for Humane and Environmental Education, an HSUS subsidiary. “The Arizona Humane Society feels their donations are threatened, and does not want the public to realize how many animals they don’t find homes for. The last time I was able to look at their statistics, in 1999, they were still killing more animals than they adopted out: more than 19,000,” compared to 32,526 animals killed by Maricopa County. “That is a community problem, not just an Arizona Humane Society fundraising problem to be overcome with public relations spin,” Finch finished, “and the community deserves $10 million to work on it.”

White, in a guest column for the Arizona Republic, said that he vetoed joining in a Maddie’s Fund application because, “Not one cent could be spent to build new shelters or low-cost spay/neuter clinics”; the money “could not be used to care for abused, injured and sick animals” who cannot be rehabilitated for adoption; and Maddie’s Fund could cancel the grant and demand return of the money if stated goals were not achieved. Rejecting the whole no-kill concept, White wrote that “No-kill shelters reject more animals than they receive, and unaccepted animals end up euthanized by government-funded pounds.”

Responded Boks, “As with any grant, there are many things you cannot do” with Maddie’s money. “The point is what you can do, which is save the lives of thousands of dogs and cats every year. Maddie’s does not forbid building shelters; you just cannot use Maddie’s money to build them. Maddie’s does not forbid caring for abused, injured, and sick animals. You just cannot use Maddie’s funds to do so. If a local Maddie’s initiative is unsuccessful, funding is cut off. Although White feels this is sufficient reason to not even try, we disagree. We are committed to making Maricopa County a no-kill community. If we fail, we fail. But the greater failure is to not try at all.”

Before heading the Arizona Humane Society, White was founding director of the San Francisco Department of Animal Care and Control. In that position White openly resented the SF/SPCA no-kill policy and the acclaim Richard Avanzino won for introducing it. White refused to sign the Adoption Pact, which took effect under his successor, Carl Bernstein, after White moved to HSUS as director of companion animal programs in 1993. At HSUS, White derisively called no-kill shelters “turnaways,” because they do not accept every
animal. Leaving HSUS to head the Arizona Humane Society in 1995, White was less critical of no-kill sheltering–until local momentum built in favor of it.

San Mateo

But White may not be in Phoenix to block a Maddie’s Fund bid for much longer. As ANIMAL PEOPLE went to press the night of July 31, the Peninsula Humane Society of San Mateo, California, was reportedly considering whether to offer him a salary of $180,000 plus a $50,000 housing allowance to lure him from Phoenix–which would be more than twice the national average compensation for heads of humane societies with revenues in the range of $6 million per year, and $80,000 more than White gets in Arizona.

Peninsula Humane and Arizona Humane have similar annual budgets, but Arizona Humane does not hold any animal control contracts, while animal control contracts provide about $3.9 million of the Peninsula Humane Society revenue.

White would replace Pete LeVault, hired in February 1999, who left with a reported severance settlement of $160,000 in December 2000 after the society was sued by an ex-employee who alleged that LaVault had sexually harassed her. White would be the latest of a series of Peninsula Humane Society directors who have resisted emulating San Francisco,
beginning with Kim Sturla, whose criticism of no-kill sheltering tapered off after she left PHS, directed anti-pet overpopulation programs for the Fund for Animals, and established her own no-kill sanctuary, called Animal Place.

White could arrive in San Mateo coincidental with a push to license cats, recently recommended by the San Mateo County Civil Grand Jury to strengthen a 1991 ordinance which Sturla drafted as a ban on dog and cat breeding. By the time it was actually passed,
just before Sturla resigned, it was a conventional differential licensing scheme, under which owners of non-neutered animals pay more to license them and owners of multiple animals must buy a kennel permit.

The proposed San Mateo cat licensing ordinance is opposed by all of the major no-kill shelters and rescue groups in the county, including Pets In Need, of Redwood City; Another Life For Animals, of Half Moon Bay; Cats Are Truly Special, of Colma; and the Homeless Cat Network, of San Carlos.

Founded in 1965, 13 years after the Peninsula Humane Society, Pets In Need is the oldest and largest no-kill shelter in the south-of-San Francisco region. Long eclipsed by Peninsula
Humane, Pets In Need has rapidly grown since recruiting executive director Brenda Barnette from the SF/SPCA in 1997, while Peninsula Humane receipts of public donations have been relatively flat. Yet Pets In Need still raises only one dollar for every three dollars donated to Peninsula Humane.

St. Louis

Stray Rescue of St. Louis founder Randy Grim spent two years organizing eight other mostly larger animal welfare groups, the St. Louis Animal Regulation Center, and seven veterinary hospitals into a coalition to apply for $4 million from Maddie’s Fund–but Humane Society of Missouri president Kathryn Warnick held out, backed by letters from PETA and HSUS vice president for companion animals Martha Armstrong.

The PETA letter mentioned the proposed application to Maddie’s Fund only in passing, while endorsing a new differential licensing ordinance passed by the St. Louis Board of Aldermen on June 8. At the same meeting, the Board of Aldermen passed a resolution asking the Humane Society of Missouri to reconsider not seeking a Maddie’s Fund grant.

But both Warnick and Armstrong insisted in public statements that receiving funding from Maddie’s would require the Humane Society of Missouri to stop accepting any and all animals brought to it, including sick, injured, and dangerous animals. Maddie’s Fund makes no such requirement. Neither would the Humane Society of Missouri be required to become a no-kill shelter, unless it wished to become the lead agency responsible for coordinating the program funded by Maddie’s.

If participating in a Maddie’s-funded regional no-kill plan, however, the Humane Society of Missouri would have to offer healthy and non-dangerous but unadopted animals to the other shelters participating in the plan before killing them, most of which specialize in rescue-for-adoption. It would also have to disclose shelter entry and exit data on a monthly basis to the lead agency.

“The Humane Society of Missouri has been slow to embrace change,” commented Riverfront Times writer Laura Higgins. “Perhaps because of that, the St. Louis euthanasia totals have bucked the national trend and have climbed as much as 5% since 1994, even though the Humane Society of Missouri is among the wealthiest in the county, with a new $11 million shelter and an annual budget of more than $8 million. Its auxiliary offered to buy a mobile neutering van, but was turned down. Its low-cost neutering program resulted in only 62 discount surgeries in 1999, out of 8,500 performed by the society. Until last year, it refused to do early neutering surgery, allowing up to 37% of its adopted animals to leave the shelter
reproductively intact. When it built its new headquarters, it rebuked a request from the city to buy its old building,” to replace a shelter that the city itself acknowledges is inadequate, “choosing instead to bulldoze it and build a $600,000 pet memorial park.”

ANIMAL PEOPLE received an anonymous unofficial review of the proposed St. Louis application to Maddie’s Fund from a source within the Humane Society of Missouri who found major logistic flaws in it, including that it tried to separate the city from the suburbs, which the topography of the area does not make realistic, and that Stray Rescue of St. Louis and the other St. Louis-area no-kill shelters among them lack the administrative capacity to make the proposal work.

“This conflict is exacerbated by hautur on one side and insufficient attention to detail on the other,” the reviewer commented, adding “There are signs that the group which can afford to do so,” namely the Humane Society of Missouri, “might eventually provide extremely inexpensive community-wide neutering services.” But funding low-cost neutering–by local veterinarians, who profit if efficient–is among the things that Maddie’s does most:

* A feral cat-fixing program started with the California Veterinary Medical Association in August 1999 was expected to result in 20,000 additional cat sterilizations during the first year. It more than doubled the goal, and after two years has resulted in more than 100,000 additional cat sterilizations.
* A low-cost sterilization program funded in Lodi, California, exceeded the first-year goal by 97%, coinciding with a 14% drop in shelter killing.
* A low-cost sterilization program funded in Utah, coordinated by Best Friends, increased sterilizations by 21% and achieved a 9% drop in shelter killing within six months.
* On June 22 Maddie’s Fund announced a grant of $610,000 to the Alabama Veterinary Medical Association to start a sterilization program for the pets of low-income Alabama residents.
* On July 24, Maddie’s Fund announced a grant of $1.84 million to the California Veterinary Medical Association to subsidize fixing 30,000 dogs and cats for low-income people during the next fiscal year. As in Alabama, pet keepers will be asked to pay $5.00 per cat surgery and $10 per dog surgery, after showing proof of eligibility. Maddie’s Fund will pay the vets an average of $45 per cat surgery and $70 per dog surgery.

Down to hard cases

Low-cost and free sterilization, neuter/return feral cat control, improved pet identification, and high-volume adoption have cut the numbers of animals killed in shelters by 75% in just 15 years, but except in the most laggard cities and underserved rural areas, the easy gains have already been made. Now the no-kill movement has to figure out what to do about the hard cases, mostly long since familiar to the conventional sheltering community.

The hard cases include the people who will not allow their animals to be fixed, at any price, either because of personal issues or because because they erroneously hope to make money through breeding them. The hard cases also include feral cat colonies who cannot simply be trapped, sterilized, vaccinated, and released, but instead must be removed, whether for their own safety or to protect an endangered species.

And then there are dangerous dogs, whose adoption involves high liability risk; the animals with terminal illnesses who might still have a few good months or years; and animals who might be recoverable but only with immense investment.

Various shelters have been experimenting with solutions to these problems, but they tend to require wherewithal that the public has mostly not been willing to give conventional shelters, either through allocations of tax money or as donations.The biggest strength of no-kill sheltering is that because it is not linked with killing pets, it is more attractive to donors. The SF/SPCA, Humane Society of Austin & Travis County, and many other former conventional shelters have found that going no-kill can ring explosive growth in donations, more than offsetting any loss of net income from animal control contracts, which rarely even fully pay for themselves. Special programs to help special needs animals have proved
especially popular.

The biggest weakness of no-kill sheltering is that many people who try to do it lack the foundation to succeed. And often they try and fail in communities which lack even basic animal control and humane services. A shelter may try to do only one job and do it well, e.g. providing care-for-life of just one breed of dog, but will inevitably find boxes of kittens on the doorstep and dogs of other breeds or no breed tied to the mailbox.

Yet another strength of no-kill sheltering is that many of the most successful no-kill organizations have recognized the value in helping the rest, establishing conferences, training programs, and collective sterilization and adoption promotions. A recent promising development, pioneered by current SF/SPCA executive director Ed Sayres, involves high-volume adoption shelters in big cities with sound financial bases contracting with struggling
but well-managed no-kill shelters in outlying areas to provide care-for-life to dogs and cats with no realistic hope of adoption. Such arrangements can bring economic stability to smaller no-kills at the same time as emptying cage space for animals who can be adopted–including animals received at the outlying shelters, who might find homes in the city, but not where potential adoptors are few and far between.

It may be appropriate that the No Kill Conference is convening this year on approximately the site of the Hartford Convention of 1814-1815. That was the conference at which representatives of the prosperous and progressive New England states debated and ultimately rejected a motion to secede from the rest of the U.S., to divorce themselves from the problems of the rest of the nation.

Often accused of not dealing in reality, the no-kill community is driving even opponents of no-kill to create a new reality of animal care-and-control which may include more civil wars among organizations than ever before, but no longer accepts dead dogs and cats as an inevitable outcome.

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